Press Conference/Photo Op Planned Tuesday, April 17 at State Capitol Building — 40th Anniversary of Inmates' Solitary Confinement
Contact: Suzanne Trimel, 212-633-4150, [email protected]
(Baton Rouge, La.) — On Tuesday, April 17, on the steps of the Louisiana State Capitol, Amnesty International will deliver more than 65,000 petition signatures from people worldwide, calling on Governor Bobby Jindal to immediately remove two Louisiana inmates from "inhuman" solitary confinement, where they have been held for 40 years — and denied meaningful review as to why.
On April 17, 1972, Albert Woodfox, now 65, and Herman Wallace, 70, serving a sentence for armed robbery, were placed in an isolation unit in Louisiana State Penitentiary – known as Angola Prison, charged and later convicted of the murder of a prison guard. The two men consistently denied involvement in the killing of Brent Miller. No physical evidence links them to Miller's murder and documents have emerged suggesting the main eyewitness was bribed into giving statements against the men and that the state withheld evidence about the perjured testimony of another inmate witness. A further witness later retracted his testimony.
"Holding elderly men in six by nine foot cages after four decades — when they pose no threat — is inhuman and unjust," said Everette Harvey Thompson, director of Amnesty International's Southern Regional Office. "What evidence is there that these men are so dangerous that they must be subjected to these conditions? They have clean disciplinary histories. Afterfour decades of solitary confinement, they are physically and mentally frail. The only explanation is that they are being held in solitary confinement as retribution for political activity.
"Governor Jindal and the Department of Correction's policies regarding the Angola 2 push the boundaries of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and fly in the face of international standards to which the United States is a party. Forty years of isolation is an outrage and must end!"
At a press conference to take place at 2-3 p.m. (central time) April 17 on the steps of the Capitol building following the petition delivery, Amnesty International's Thompson will be joined by Robert King, the only freed man of the original Angola 3, who was held for 29 years; Alfreda Tillman Bester, general counsel to the Louisiana State Conference of the NAACP, and Angola 3 family and friends.
In June 2011, Amnesty International released a report, "100 Years in Solitary: The Angola 3 and Their Fight for Justice," which outlines the unjust confinement of Woodfox, Wallace and King.
In the brutal conditions of the prison in the 1970s, Woodfox and Wallace founded a prison chapter of the Black Panther Party to campaign for better conditions and fair treatment. King joined the effort. The men believe they were falsely implicated in the murder because of their political activism in prison. Evidence has emerged to suggest the decision to hold them in solitary was based at least in part on their activism and association with the Black Panther Party.
Today, Woodfox and Wallace suffer from serious health problems, their lawyers say; Woodfox suffers from diabetes, heart disease and hypertension while Wallace has osteoarthritis and memory loss. The years of isolated confinement aggravated or exacerbated their health problems, their lawyers contend.
Woodfox and Wallace are confined to their 6.5 by 9 feet cells for 23 hours a day and allowed out only to exercise alone in a small outdoor cage, or to shower or walk along the cell unit corridor.
They have limited access to books, newspapers and television. For the past four decades they haven't been allowed to work or have access to education. Social interaction has been restricted to occasional visits from friends and family and limited telephone calls.
They have also been denied any meaningful review of the reasons for their isolation.
To read the report, "100 Years in Solitary" please visit: http://www.amnestyusa.org/research/reports/usa-urged-to-end-inmates-40-year-long-solitary-confinement
A short video on the story of the "Angola 2", which includes an interview with Robert King, who spent 29 years in solitary confinement in the same prison, is available on: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kotf68mrqCI